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Back to School: Fostering a Peaceful Start to the New Year

Janelle Cox

The beginning of the school year is a wonderful opportunity for teachers to create a peaceful classroom community from the start: One that fosters kindness, calmness, and peacefulness. Make your classroom a place where students feel safe, comfortable, and at peace while in school. Incorporate community-building activities, cooperative learning, and daily rituals that are peaceful and calm. Here are a few back to school tips on how you can do that.

Back to School Community-Building Activities

The first few weeks are critical for bonding. This is the time where students need to start building relationships and developing the skills that they will need and use throughout the entire school year. Cooperative getting-to-know you games can help foster new relationships in a fun and peaceful way. Here are a few back to school activities to try.

Name Train. Students learn and practice names while making a train with their bodies. One student chugs over to another, learns their name, chants it aloud, then has that student put their hands on their shoulders and they chug over to the next student. This continues with until all students are in a train.

Group Juggle. Students learn names in a faced paced ball game. Students sit on their desks and throw the ball to a peer, when they throw it they must say “Here you go___”. When they catch it they must say “Thank you___.”

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Name Web. Students learn their peers’ names and one fact about them in this interconnected game. Students sit in a circle. When the ball of string gets passed to them, they must introduce themselves and say one fact about them. Then, they must keep a hold of part of the string, and pass the yarn to another classmate. They must say the name to the person they are passing the yarn to. Once all students have gone, there will be a web formed in the middle of the circle. This web represents how each student is connected.

Starting the Day with Morning Meetings

Make time for classroom meetings by starting them the first week of school. These morning meetings help establish a safe space for classroom discussions while building a caring classroom community at the same time. Each morning welcome students and start the day off by addressing any issues or sharing any new news. Let students have a voice and share anything that they feel they need to. This is a great daily ritual that allows students to connect with one another, get their voice heard, and address anything that is important to them. They are also a great way to keep the peace in the classroom.

Being Mindful

Another way to foster peace in the classroom and keep your students feeling calm is to teach them to be mindful. The idea is for students to be in the moment with everything that they do. It’s about controlling their negative thoughts and being mindful of their present feelings. This skill will enable children to deal with the academic stress and pressures that are in school. It will help keep them calm and at peace throughout the school day. Here are a few activities that you can try with your students.

  • Have students sit comfortably in their chairs with their feet on the floor and their hands rested on their lap. Have students close their eyes and notice their breath. Then, have them notice each inhale and exhale. They can count each inhale and exhale up to 10, then start over. This will help them focus.
  • Take a walk outside and have students focus on all of the sounds that they hear outside. As they quietly listen they should count each sound that they hear. Once you get back into the classroom discuss the sounds that they heard and talk about how you feel when you are mindful and focus your thoughts on one thing at a time.

End the Day with Gratitude

Make your classroom an environment where students appreciate one another and are grateful. End each day with a quick activity that promotes gratitude. Take the time to praise the positive attitudes and tell students what you are grateful for. Pass a talking stick around the circle and have students say one thing that they were grateful for that happened during the day. This activity will foster a peaceful and comfortable classroom community where students are grateful and appreciative for one another and their classroom.

These community-building activities and daily rituals will make your classroom a place where students feel loved, connected, and safe. Take them time in the beginning of the school year to implement these tips and you will be glad that you did.

How do you get your classroom off to a peaceful start? Share your tips below, we would love to hear your ideas.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.